The Free Press, Mankato, MN


September 22, 2012

Minnesota State pulls away from MSU-Moorhead

MANKATO — Tough wind, with a freshman quarterback making his first start and an offensive line that was physically superior. Through three quarters, the Minnesota State football team had run on 40 of 53 plays, yet held only a seven-point lead.

But in the fourth quarter, the quarterback got more comfortable, the wind was at the Mavericks’’ backs, and the physical mismatch finally took its toll as MSU defeated Minnesota State-Moorhead 24-0 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game Saturday at Blakeslee Stadium.

“The wind affected some of the throws we had in our game plan,” Minnesota State coach Aaron Keen said. “And that was something that Moorhead had struggled with in the first three games, giving up some big plays down the field.

“But we have to do a better job of executing. We thought we could get some things with our inside zone (rushes) and on the perimeter, and we were successful. Once we balance that with a better passing attack, I’ll be happy.”

The Mavericks accumulated 427 yards of offense, with 339 yards coming on 52 rushes. Quarterback Mitch Brozovich, a redshirt freshman making his first start, was 8 of 20 with three touchdowns and an interception on the last play of the first half.

“I need to play better next week,” Brozovich said. “The offensive line did a great job of protecting me. I need to complete the passes I know I can complete.”

The Mavericks moved the ball well but had trouble scoring. On the first drive, Andy Pfeiffer broke free down the sideline, but as he neared the goal line on his 54-yard run he was stripped, and the Dragons recovered in the end zone.

On the next possession, the Mavericks converted, with Brozovich throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Riggott. Sam Brockshus’ PAT made it 7-0, a score that didn’t change before halftime.

The Mavericks had 254 yards in the first half, with 218 yards rushing. Pfeiffer had 121 yards on eight carries, but the Mavericks had a drive that stalled at the Minnesota State-Moorhead 20 and another at the 35.

The Mavericks dominated the third quarter, with double the possession time and an 89-0 advantage on yards, but the score remained 7-0.

Early in the fourth, after the Mavericks got the wind to their backs, Brockshus made a 39-yard field goal to gain some space.

After another stop, the Mavericks padded the lead with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Brozovich to Keyvan Rudd. The ball was tipped near the goal line and Rudd caught the deflection near the corner of the end zone for a 17-0 lead.

In the final minute, the Mavericks added another score on a 3-yard pass from Brozovich to Rudd, making the final score more lopsided than the game seemed through three quarters.

“It definitely helped me forget about the first three quarters,” Brozovich said. “I feel pretty good coming off the field after that last one.”

Brozovich finished with 88 yards passing and 79 yards rushing.

“I think last week, when he came into the game (against St. Cloud State), he had nothing to lose, and I think he was more relaxed for that,” Keen said. “I thought he played tight early, and I have to do a better job of building his confidence. He missed some throws he usually doesn’t miss.”

Pfeiffer shook off the early fumble and ended up with 168 yards on 18 carries.

“It’s good to have coaches that have confidence in you and are still willing to give you the ball,” he said. “I wish I could have had that one back. I just have to be more careful”

The defense had another dominant performance, allowing only 137 yards in offense for the shutout. The Dragons gained only 27 yards in the second half, with less than 10 minutes of possession time.

“The guys really stepped up this summer and worked hard,” defensive end Chris Schaudt said. “We hit fall camp running and we haven’t stopped since. We’re playing with confidence, and everyone is doing their job.”

For the third time in four games, the Mavericks held a team to less than 100 yards rushing as Minnesota State-Moorhead managed 39 yards on 30 carries. The Dragons never got inside the Minnesota State 20.

Minnesota State (4-0) celebrates homecoming on Saturday with a game against Concordia-St. Paul. Kickoff for the South Division opener is 2 p.m.

“Our goal is to always protect our home,” Keen said. “The guys are looking forward to a big crowd and the excitement that homecoming brings.”

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